Chinese students face scrutiny at US airports ?


As US-China relations boil over, Washington has begun screening Chinese students at airports accused of stealing technology.

Chinese students face scrutiny at US airports ?


When the announcement of Boston Logan International Airport asked Keith Zhang to come to the boarding desk, he thought it was a regular boarding check.

But his heart sank when he saw two armed American officers waiting there.

"They questioned me on the grounds that I was here to steal technology," Keith Zhang - not his real name - told the BBC.

Zhang, a 26-year-old PhD student from China, was a one-year researcher in psychology at Brown University.

He did not expect to spend the last two hours on American soil questioning his possible relationship with the Chinese Communist Party.

So what can happen?

Christopher Y, the FBI's director, recently said that in response to Beijing's "far-reaching" economic espionage campaign, the FBI is now opening a new anti-war case against China every 10 hours.

In July, Washington closed the Chinese consulate in Houston, calling it a "spy center."

As the United States tightens its grip on Chinese citizens over espionage concerns, screening of selected students and researchers reveals Washington's new move to combat economic espionage. Some of the students' electronic devices were taken’ for the next exam and did not return for weeks.

Zhang describes screening as "pure harassment."

"If I had to steal any data or intellectual property, I could send it through cloud storage. Taking my laptop and phone for testing does nothing but harass," Zhang said.

China's foreign ministry has accused Washington of "abusing" judicial powers to interrogate and arrest Chinese students in the United States "on fabricated charges."

However, a series of indictments against Chinese investigators suggest that US officials have some basis for suspicion.

In August, Haizhou, a 34-year-old scholar visiting China at the University of Virginia, was arrested’ while trying to board a flight to China at Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

The Justice Department said a "routine screening" revealed that its laptop contained research software code, which it did not have access to. According to a federal indictment, the code of conduct includes military applications.

In addition, the United States has recently arrested a number of Chinese researchers accused of hiding their links to the Chinese military in visa applications. A scientist had allegedly escaped from the Chinese consulate in San Francisco before being, arrested. Another Chinese investigator discarded the damaged hard drive and was later accused’ of destroying evidence to obstruct the FBI's investigation.

The doors of the United States are "wide open" for students who come to the United States with the intention of learning, US Assistant Secretary of State David Steele told the BBC.

"But if you're masked here (students), they say, 'We have to defend ourselves. "

Sheena Greitens, an associate professor of public affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, said there were "grave concerns" about the transfer of the United States from China to China-through educational channels.

"Given that this is a spy investigation, it is unlikely that we will see the full details of each case, but it is difficult to make informed decisions about the nature of the threat to national security that we have seen. Based on a few issues. So far, "says Professor Greens.

Unlike Ho, Zhang was allowed’ to board his flight at the last minute, but he said the airport screening was "a painful experience."

He remembers two armed officers who repeatedly accused him of lying. "I was under a lot of stress and almost had a mental breakdown," he says.

Zhang did not ask for the names or identities of the officers, nor did he ask to speak to a lawyer in the United States, Brown University or the Chinese embassy.

"I knew I had these rights, but I didn't want to risk losing my flight," Zhang said.

Getting on his flight was Zhang's absolute priority, as he wanted to go home to meet his wife. They were married a year ago, but have spent most of their time studying in the United States.

During epidemics, it is difficult to travel from the United States to China, as international flights between the two countries are rapidly declining. Zhang spent weeks and almost hours securing flights to his hometown Shanghai en route to Amsterdam. Spent 5,000.

Generally, US law enforcement agents have to obtain a warrant to search for electronic devices, but airports are an exception. U.S. border agents need only "reasonable suspicion" to search for passengers' electronic devices at airports.

According to the South China Morning Post, US border agents have arrested Chinese nationals in 2019

Airports are also "a crossroads for the physical discharge of information," says Professor Greitens, focusing on legal, physical and personnel infrastructure for screening and where most passengers en route to the United States. Go

Assistant U.S. Attorney General John recently said that airport screenings could "be more visible than ever."

He revealed that the decision to screen was based’ on students' schools and areas of study in China. Scholars from a high-level scientific field and institutions affiliated with the Chinese military are more likely to visit.

"What we're trying to do is write with a sharp pointed pencil, as opposed to a big magic marker," Mr. Demers said at a public think tank event in Washington DC.

Both Hu and Zhang received scholarships from the China Scholarship Council (CSC) for their research in the United States.

CSC is an organization under the Ministry of Education of China that provides financial support for educational exchanges between China and other countries.

According to a recent, study by Georgetown University, the CSC sponsors about 65,000 Chinese overseas students, 7% of the Chinese nationals on board. The number of foreign students in China is the same.

While studying his exchange in the United States, Zhang received a monthly stipend of 9 1,900 (14 1,430) from the CSC. Used to sign

China's higher education and research system is largely state-owned. Although not all researchers are members of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the party can influence research.

The CCP has appointed representatives and informants in educational institutions, and some universities have amended their charters to emphasize unwavering loyalty to the party.

At the airport, Zhang told U.S. law enforcement officers that the CCP had no direct influence on his research into cognitive psychology, which is "highly ideological." But government funding did not convince officials.

"It's normal for all governments to fund scientific research. The United States also funds public universities and labs," Zhang said. "I have no way of convincing them, if their In my opinion, the government's financing is tantamount to the direct influence of the Communist Party on everyone.

The CSC is now being scrutinized’ in the United States, as it is considered’ a place where Beijing can influence students abroad.

On August 31, the University of North Texas terminated its exchange program with 15 Chinese visiting researchers receiving CSC funding, effectively rejecting their U.S. visas. This seems to be the first case of an American university severing ties with the CSC.

Professor Greitens expects to continue some of the growing scrutiny of Chinese nationals studying science and technology in the United States, especially those who have been affected’ by the US election results.

"Both (Trump and Biden) administrations are likely to take the potential risk of illegal technology transfers between the United States and China very seriously."

Although Zhang was impressed’ by the academic excellence in the United States and enjoyed working with colleagues at Brown University, he says he will never consider returning to the country because of his screening experience.

"It was scary. I felt like it could hurt my safety at any moment."

Concerned about the prospects for US-China relations, Zhang has begun lobbying the United States to consider repatriating his Chinese friends.

"A new Cold War has begun," he says. "There is no point in retreating, no matter who is going to be the next president of the United States."

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